Operationalizing SDG’s through Legally Binding Instrument on Right to Development
Author: Manveer Singh Sandhu
Translated into Spanish by Ana Elena Acon
The term Sustainable Development was first coined by the Brundtland Commission, which defined it as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (Brundtland, 1987). The definition has changed a few times since then. For the lack of a convincing explanation, I would like to define sustainable development as — A process to harmonize our policies to respect, protect and fulfill all human rights, eradicate socio-economic inequalities and tackle climate change challenges through the implementation of effective governance strategies by collective efforts of all national and international actors.
It was realized by the end of the twentieth century that the pace of human growth and exploitation of resources is bound to have a major effect on the limited resources of the planet. Therefore, the international community felt the need to work towards development in such a way that we meet our own needs and, at the same time, ensure fulfillment of the needs of future generations. This could only be achieved by promoting sustainable use of earth’s resources, a concept which was widely acknowledged in the Rio Summit of 1992 (Declaration, 1992). It was then translated into the Millennium Development Goals (Declaration M., 2000).
Today, it is even more important to find innovative solutions for all-round sustainable development, which not only includes environmental conservation but also encapsulates policies that help guarantee overall development without a compromise on human rights. Therefore, the scope had to be broadened. In pursuance of the same, on the Seventieth anniversary of the United Nations in 2015, the United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution No. A/RES/70/1 — Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The vision is to strive for a mode of governance where human rights are guaranteed, inequalities are addressed, and climate change challenges are faced effectively. However, it is also pertinent to know that world socio-economic order is a complex system of interactions between its components, each of which has an important part to play to fulfill this vision. Therefore, it is pertinent that we try to make these interactions between components harmonious with each other (Agenda, 2015). Moreover, these beliefs are being reinforced in a world affected by COVID-19. The need for sustainable development through policy implementation and cooperation is more important than ever before.
None of the member states have been able to achieve the yearly sustainable development targets that each country decides for itself. It is also highly unlikely that they will do so in the short span of 10 years. A need is thus felt for a binding agreement between parties to implement the said aims. This is exactly where the Legally Binding Instrument on the Right to Development (RtD) comes into the picture. The current draft provides a framework to encourage member states to respond positively to emerging concerns to sustainable development by harmonization of policies and cooperation on different levels. It thus gives way to break the political deadlock by clarifying and codifying the responsibilities of governments, national & international organizations, and even non-state actors (Draft convention on the right to development, 2020).
The instrument which is due to be negotiated upon in the next General Assembly meeting establishes two mechanisms for implementation of the draft convention i.e., a Conference of States Parties and a subsidiary Implementation Mechanism comprising experts. The need for state parties to conduct impact assessments of laws, policies, and practices at national and international levels with reference to their RtD obligations mainstreams the idea of development as a right. This in turn helps to mainstream the implementation of sustainable development and brings the state parties under regular scrutiny before international bodies.
The nature of development as a self-standing right under RtD is such that a trade-off with or between other human rights is not permissible. It needs to be interdependent, indivisible, and interrelated in the nature of all human rights, whether civil, political, economic, social, or cultural (OHCHR, 2006), thereby striving to create a harmonious relationship and balance in policy space as is the idea of sustainable development. A legally binding instrument on RtD will also permit the crystallization of ‘peoples’ collectively as right-holders (Draft convention on the right to development, 2020). The mainstreaming of RtD will bring it under the jurisdiction of the Universal Periodic Review, where state parties will regularly report on the extent of operationalization of RtD in their country.
In the wake of COVID-19, it is ever-clear that we need a more sustainable and cooperative model of governance that is kind to our future generations and the earth’s environment. The instrument ensures that the required actions are codified into a binding instrument keeping in mind the principles of ‘leaving no one behind’ and ‘reaching the furthest behind the first’ enlisted in the SDGs. It is an ideal time for the international community to act collectively and responsibly. This is an excellent opportunity to take a step forward towards creating an improved world order where respect for nature drives our policies for collective growth. This role as a balancing and harmonizing instrument is unique to the draft legally binding instrument on RtD. Grabbing this opportunity with both hands will pave the way for further improvement in the concept of the right to development and operationalization of the 2030 Agenda.
Agenda, 2. (2015). Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. United Nations General Assembly. Retrieved from https://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/migration/generalassembly/docs/globalcompact/A_RES_70_1_E.pdf
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Declaration, R. (1992). REPORT OF THE UNITED NATIONS CONFERENCE ON ENVIRONMENT AND DEVELOPMENT. United Nations General Assembly. Retrieved from https://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/migration/generalassembly/docs/globalcompact/A_CONF.151_26_Vol.I_Declaration.pdf
(2020). Draft convention on the right to development. Human Rights Council. Retrieved from https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Development/Session21/3_A_HRC_WG.2_21_2_AdvanceEditedVersion.pdf
OHCHR. (2006). FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ON A HUMAN RIGHTS BASED APPROACH TO DEVELOPMENT COOPERATION. OHCHR. Retrieved from https://www.ohchr.org/documents/publications/faqen.pdf
Manveer Singh Sandhu is a post-graduate student completing his course in International Law and Settlement of Disputes in the year 2020. He has previously served as an advocate in Indian legal system in the High Courts of Madhya Pradesh and the Bombay High Court. He has also conducted extensive research on operationalizing the Right to Development to implement the SDGs in the COVID-19 era and its aftermath upon completion of his course at UPEACE. As a young professional of international law eager to help make the UN sustainability agenda a springboard for interagency and intergovernmental cooperation, he is passionate about issues regarding right to development, migration, refugee law, space law, organized crime, and terrorism, among others.